France fumes at Italy DPM’s ‘colonialism’ jibes
France has summoned Italy’s ambassador after populist deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, accused its neighbour of creating poverty in Africa and creating mass migration to Europe.
Di Maio also blamed France for the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.
The Five-Star leader said France was leading colonial-style policies in Africa that “impoverished” nations and drove migrants to Europe.
Di Maio said the French economy would slump if not for “what it is doing in Africa”.
“If we have people who are leaving Africa now it’s because some European countries, and France in particular, have never stopped colonising Africa,” the youthful populist said.
“If France didn’t have its African colonies, because that’s what they should be called, it would be the 15th largest world economy. Instead, it’s among the first, exactly because of what it is doing in Africa.”
Di Maio told the media: “I don’t think it’s a diplomatic case, [but] it’s true, France is one of those countries” whose actions in Africa spark migration.
Bilateral relations have frayed over France sending migrants back to Italy.
The Italian ambassador, Teresa Castaldo, was purportedly questioned about the “unfriendly and baseless” remarks.
The deputy prime minister referred to the CFA franc, two France-backed currencies used in 14 western and central Africa states.
President Emmanuel Macron “first lectures us, then continues to finance public debt with the money with which he exploits Africa”, Di Maio said.
The CFA franc, which originally stood for French Colonies of Africa, was created in 1945 by France and pegged to the French franc.
The 14 nations represent 14 per cent of the African population and produce 12 per cent of its GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. Twelve are former French colonies.
Both versions of the CFA franc are pegged to the euro and France says it holds 50 per cent of the foreign exchange reserves of the 14 countries in its treasury to guarantee the currency.
Ndongo Samba Sylla, a Senegalese economist, said the same guarantee that stabilises the currency has also limited growth because the value of the CFA franc is fixed against the euro, rather than being set by the international markets.
“The CFA franc is the last colonial currency in activity,” Sylla said.
Paris has considerable control over the currency and was largely responsible for its devaluation in 1994.
Sylla said the foreign exchange reserves held by the French treasury are held at a lower interest rate — 0.75 per cent — than the French inflation rate of around 1.6 per cent.
“It is as if these African nations are paying French banks to hold their money,” Sylla argued.
Others say the CFA franc provides stability to weak economies, keeping inflation lower than in neighbouring states and allowing economic growth.
Back in Italy, the far-right Lega deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, also said France was looking to extract wealth from Africa rather than help countries develop their economies.
“In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy,” Salvini told Canale 5. Italy “won’t take any lessons on humanity from Macron”.
He said: “France has no reason to get upset because it pushed away tens of thousands of migrants [at its border], abandoning them there as though they were beasts.”
Libyan anarchy was blamed on France by Italy. Picture credit: Wikimedia